Iambic pentameter: a snippet

I would like to feel, before I die, that I can read poetry intelligently. To help accomplish this goal, I’m slowly reading Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Traveled. The book is about writing poetry, and I figure that if I learn more about how poetry is written, the fog that descends whenever I encounter a poem MUST lift, at least a little.

I recommend this book strongly after just a few chapters, although it’s not for prudes. Fry mixes elegant language with profanity. I think the result is engaging and lively, plus I get to learn some rude British slang.

The first thing I learned that opened my eyes wide is that poetry is all about meter, or rhythm. As a quasi-musician, I appreciate this deeply. I always read with an inner voice speaking out loud, and now I know I must free this voice to be very emphatic, perhaps even aural if I’m not with company, whenever I encounter poetry.

The spoken voice is the pathway to feeling the rhythm.

Fry starts his exploration of style with iambic pentameter. I’ve been doing my exercises and writing a few lines in this meter, and it has grown on me. It feels very elemental, like it comes from the roots of language. It is very satisfying on the tongue and in the mind. ta Da ta Da ta Da ta Da ta Da!

Here’s a bit of verse. I wrote it out loud while driving to work. I arrived at the door in a much better mood than if I had been thinking about the budget.

I've finally come to understand the lure

Of surgery, which promises a cure

For time and gravity. But yet my skin

Feels soft, despite the cobwebbed state it's in.


  1. I love it!

    So exciting to find out another person wants to play with the meter! There aren't many any more. The trend has long since moved on to poetry and spoken word that... is beyond, above, whatever, considering such restrictions desirable. That trend irritates me a bit as I enjoy the puzzle of an interesting piece where someone has taken the time to use deliberate meter. There is a point to it after all.

    Okay. I'll stop that rant. But I will invite you to my annual sonnet writing. So far it's just me. :-D I write one each spring that is supposed to reflect my current mind set. Poetry month is in April, but I write them when I see the signs of spring, not when a calendar or organization decides. Spring is the easiest season IMO in order to delve into the mind set.



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